I have been having problems with my camera in that all the images seem to come out soft (slightly blurred) so I decided to play around with the cameras auto focus settings while photographing a confiding Red-backed Shrike and a hunting Black-headed Heron. I eventually settled on a setting of -3 which gave much sharper images, I'm not 100% happy yet but there was a vast improvement in image quality.
Arriving at sunrise, I saw all the usuals like Amur Falcon, Northern Black Korhaan, Lesser Grey Shrike, Black-headed Heron and Long-tailed Shrike. Apart from my camera setup shots of Red-backed Shrike and Black-headed Heron, photo opportunties at this stage were non-existant and I only got my first photos after the MPCA Dam. This was of two Cape Penduline Tits chasing each other around a dry bush which was exciting as I have never seen these birds on Zaagkuil before.
|Cape Penduline Tits|
The two Tits were a lot yellower than those I have seen before which caused a bit of confusion at first as I thought that they may have been Yellow-bellied Eremomela!
The area along Zaagkuildrift rd is very dry at the moment which does not bode well for sightings of River Warbler. Driving slowly I was able to pick up several Spotted Flycatchers, one calling Woodland Kingfisher, several Willow Warblers, Blue Waxbill, Pied and Arrow-marked Babblers and a Purple Roller being harrassed by a group of White-crowned Shrikes.
|Purple Roller under attack|
Yellow-billed and Red-billed Hornbills were more numerous than what I remember from my previous visits over the last few years. Grey Hornbill was also seen in the area where the bush starts becoming more open. This area also produced Green-winged Pytilia, Rattling Cisticola, White-browed Sparrow-weaver, Red-billed Firefinch, Village Indigobird, numerous Burchells Starlings, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Green Woodhoopoe and Eurasian Roller. Red-backed Shrikes are extremely common along this road.
|Red-backed Shrike male|
I managed to see all of the common Roller species during the morning with Purple, Eurasian and Lilac-breasted present.
A trip down one of the side roads across the flood plain, which was again very dry, produced Hamerkop, Diederik Cuckoo, Pin-tailed, Long-tailed Paradise and Shaft-tailed Whydah, Barred Warbler, Marico Flycatcher and a calling Olivetree Warbler.
A small Party of Pied Babblers was seen with very large chicks! I didn't get a photo of the chicks as they stayed deep in the bush away from the road.
|Southern Pied Babbler|
Lesser Grey Shrike is also common at this time of year.
|Lesser Grey Shrike|
One of the farms along the road had this way out of range creature strolling around the farm!
Finally, a photo of a Shaft-tailed Whydah on a bush!
|Shaft-tailed Whydah (2)|
I love the expressions on the faces of the cattle and the Ox-pecker
I eventually got a Steppe Buzzard at about 11 o'clock!
This Juv Pale Chanting Goshawk was a nice sighting as they are not very common in this area.
|Juvenile Pale Chanting Goshawk|
On the way out I quickly phoned for permission to visit the MPCA Dam, donned my leaf suit and found a quiet spot on the bank. After a short while this Wood Sandpiper wandered across in front of me not knowing exactly what I was!
The best thing I discovered about the leaf suit was that I was able to approach these Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters without them being too worried. These are the best photos I have ever managed to get of this species (I didn't say I was an excellent photographer). I will definately be trying the leaf suit again in future. Watch out warblers!!
|Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters (4)|
All in all it was a magic mornings birding, I didn't have a time limit and only decided to head back at 13h48 because I felt a bit guilty about taking so much time for myself!! I think I would have stuck around until the evening birds arrived if I could have but I will have to save that for another day! My list total for the day ended up on 106 which isn't too bad for only one pair of eyes??